575: Using Openness to Achieve Greater Employee Engagement | Anup Singh, CFO, Illumio

Listen to the Episode Below (00:44:04)

Among the more novel approaches that CFO Anup Singh has recently used to help advance a more open working environment at Illumio, of Sunnyvale, California, was the creation of a channel inside the instant messaging application Slack through which employees can access Illumio’s finance leader by tagging their queries with an unassuming “#CFO ask me anything”.

“They will ask me my views on things. This is about high employee engagement and being really accessible to the employees. I’m letting them know that they’ve got an avenue where we can be straightforward and very transparent with sharing information,” says Singh, who joined Illumio in early 2019 after having served in the CFO role for several different companies, including Anaplan and Nimble Storage.

According to Singh, the CFO Slack channel extends his reach beyond his finance team members and helps him to communicate with Illumio employees with whom he may not ordinarily engage.

Says Singh: “I can use the opportunity to explain the meaning of some of the financial analyses and metrics to a nonfinancial audience, and this is information-sharing that is conversational.”

At the same time, Singh’s efforts to inject more openness into Illumio’s finance function and the company at large have also involved more conventional methods.

Such is the case with “The Bottom Line,” a label given to a number of somewhat impromptu meetings that Singh has held to better engage with Illumio employees.

“I do these a couple of times a quarter here at Illumio. It’s off-the-cuff. I show up for an hour in the break room and employees can dial in from anywhere around the world and ask me questions,” says Singh, who frequently uses the words “openness,” “conversation,” and “engagement” when describing the role of finance at Illumio.

“As a CFO, you are truly a cross-functional executive. You’re wearing the hat of a GM. So this is about getting in there with sales and marketing and product people and sharing a very clear understanding of the value drivers and how your team helps the organization,” he explains. –Jack Sweeney

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Guest: Anup Singh

Company: Illumio

Contact: www.illumio.com

Headquarters: Sunnyvale, CA 

CFOTL: What are your priotiites as a finance leader over the next12 months?

Singh: In looking ahead at Illumio, my big focus is on continuing to support our go-to-market expansion. Our company’s growing quickly. We’re expanding globally. This means recruiting in different geographies, expanding our offices, and so on. This is something that I and my team do a lot to support. In the past year, I would say that we’ve also worked hard to transform Illumio into a really data-driven environment as well as to emphasize the operational excellence of the company. The ongoing task is to continue to automate our metrics and automate our key processes. This obviously helps us to manage our growth efficiently. The last thing, which is very near and dear to my heart and a priority for me every year, is to continue the journey in building out a world-class team here at Illumio. This is an ongoing quest that we have.

We try every year to just be better and better. When you have a model such as ours, which is very much “land and expand,” having a healthy NRR or net revenue retention rate is a great indicator that the customers that you are getting in and winning are coming back to buy even more. You look at things like renewal rates and churn and so forth. These are good metrics to examine not just because they impact revenue but also because they act as good indicators of customer satisfaction, of how the product is doing, of the value that the customers are getting from our software, and so on. In addition to growth, we also track a bunch of other KPIs and metrics to ensure that we’re achieving a healthy mix between growth and improving our margins and leverage in the business. We want to ensure that over time our gross margins are healthy and that we see this sequential improvement in margins every year.